- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
The Cincinnati Bengals were clearly one of the best teams in the NFL last season.
Their 11-5 regular-season record and status as AFC North champion was evidence of that.
But what really makes a team "good?" The best indicator is seeing how often a team consistently outscores its opponents. Scoring and preventing scoring are naturally the objects to the game.
What can sometimes turn an OK team into a good one and a good one into a great one, though, is when said team consistently outscores its opponents late. The best teams know how to win in crunch time, and last season's point-margin statistics are a prime example of that.
That takes us to Thursday's factoid: +3.5.
Plus-3.5 was the Bengals' average point-margin differential in the fourth quarter last season. Per game, they scored 3.5 points more than they allowed in the final quarter of regulation. In a league that prides itself on parity, it's a badge of honor to emerge from the fourth quarter with such a positively trended point differential.
Of the teams in the top 10 in fourth-quarter point-margin differential last year, nine reached the postseason. Only the 7-9 Titans, in a tie for ninth with Carolina, tiptoed into that group of nine-win or more playoff teams.
It's a clear sign that the best teams win games late. The Bengals were no stranger to doing that in 2013, walking away with two victories on game-winning field goals alone. One came as time expired in regulation, and the other occurred in the middle of the overtime period. Cincinnati lost another overtime game against Baltimore, but only after outscoring the Ravens 14-0 in the fourth quarter to stage a comeback that put them into the extra period.
Cincinnati's plus-3.5 average fourth-quarter point-margin differential ranked third. Only the Broncos (plus-5.2) and Patriots (plus-5.1) had better ones.
Five times last season the Bengals outscored their opponents by double digits in the fourth quarter. Their widest final-quarter point margin was plus-17, which came in the regular-season finale against Baltimore. After dropping the overtime game to the Ravens on the road earlier in the year, the Bengals closed out the season by pounding out a 34-17 win.
Four times last season the Bengals were outscored in the fourth quarter. Most notably they lost the fourth quarter at Buffalo by 14 points when the Bills staged a rally that ultimately sent the game to a 21-all tie at the end of regulation. It was in that overtime that kicker Mike Nugent buried one of his two game-winning field goals. Two of the other three times the Bengals lost the fourth quarter, they ended up losing the game (minus-7 point-margin differential at both Chicago and Cleveland). The only other game they ended up winning after losing the fourth quarter (they were minus-4) resulted in Nugent's other game-winning strike, as time expired at Detroit in Week 7.
The fourth quarter also was the Bengals' best from a point-margin standpoint last season. Although they only averaged plus-3.2 in their second quarter point margin, that was enough to lead the league in the differential for scoring in that quarter. The only other period (including overtime) in which the Bengals had a positive point margin was the third quarter, when they averaged a plus-1.2 differential.
Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.